Stephen Kent
Catholic News Service

He “vows to carry on,” the television nightly news anchor said when introducing the piece about Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

Not the best choice of words when reporting about the latest ethically challenged politician appearing on the national scene.

His eventual resignation after Herculean pressure, however, came as no surprise.

Even so, too many are carrying on. Too few are holding to their vows. {{more}}

The cycle is depressingly the same: The miscreant who is alleged to have conducted some impropriety vehemently denies it. Then incontrovertible evidence is produced to make the case.

The disgraced officeholder calls a news conference to admit what he denied only days before, apologizes to his spouse (who may or may not be at his side), and may enter rehab and seek to “move beyond this.”

The cast has included a sitting U.S. president, at least two presidential aspirants, U.S. senators and, at last count, 10 percent of the sitting or most recent governors.

Adultery, exhibitionism, solicitation, conspiracy – the list goes on.

These are only those involving sins of the flesh. Those with monetary improprieties are too numerable to list.

What makes them think they can get away with it?


One of the better explanations came from one of the disgraced, John Ensign, the now former Republican senator from Nevada, during his resignation speech on the floor of the Senate.

Ensign resigned from his Senate seat in May as the Senate Ethics Committee began an investigation into his extramarital affair and the payoffs that followed.

“When one takes a position of leadership, this is a very real danger of getting caught up in the hype surrounding that status. Oftentimes, the more power and prestige a person achieves, the more arrogant a person can become,” he said.

“As easy as it was for me to view this in other people, unfortunately, I was blind to how arrogant and self-centered that I had become. I did not recognize that – that I thought mostly of myself. The worst part about this is I even tried not to become caught up in my own self-importance. Unfortunately, the urge to believe in it was stronger than the power to fight it. This is how dangerous the feeling of power and adulation can be,” said Ensign.

One might question the sincerity of the statement issued only after his hand was caught well inside the cookie jar. But there is something to take from the words of this confessional speech.

According to news reports, Ensign’s farewell speech was notable as much for who was not there as for what he said.

Not a single colleague came to hear him speak or to pay tribute to his service. The gallery was not filled with family members and staffers who often pack its seats for such occasions.

That is too bad, for there would be value for his peers in hearing and taking to heart some of what was said.

The problem comes when the officeholders no longer see themselves as servants but as superior to those whom they serve.

It would be well to reflect on Paul’s epistle to the Philippians: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (2:5-7).

It may not pass muster with the “separation of church and state” crowd, but this would be a good reading for every inauguration or swearing-in ceremony.

Kent, now retired, was editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. He can be contacted at: